Prays Together: Ministering to Incarcerated Juveniles in Tulare County
By Mandy Nevarez
July 1st was the launch date for the juvenile facility with the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry. This is an exciting time as God opens this new door of placing a chaplain within the youth correctional facilities in Tulare County. It has been two weeks into this new ministry and I cannot wait to see what God is going to do. There are a lot of legal and confidentiality limitations of what can be shared about the incarcerated youth in our community, but the need for Jesus is evident. In many cases these young people could be our very own sons and daughters. As a community I feel a sense of urgency to reach them. The reality is, however, that adolescence is a difficult stage of life. Even an average teenager who has not engaged in criminal activity has many challenges. My strategy to reach the youth is similar to how I minister to the incarcerated women in our adult jail facilities; it is through relationship. When an individual knows that you care and are willing to spend time with them by showing them God’s love they are more likely to be receptive to what you have to say. Many of the youth in these facilities come from very dysfunctional backgrounds and perhaps have not experienced that unconditional love. It is a privilege to be placed in a position as chaplain to provide that for them, on whatever level they are able to receive it.
“Don’t forget those who are in prison. Remember them as though you were in prison with them. And don’t forget those who are suffering. Remember them as though you were suffering with them,” (Hebrews 13:3). This is a directive given to the believer, as God has called us to serve those who are in or out of jail. I have seen an entire family incarcerated at the same time; mothers and daughters, sister and cousins. The father will be in one facility, the mother in another, and their child will be next door. This is a cycle that I know God wants broken. Imagine the impact on our communities as a whole when families start to come to Jesus. Please keep this ongoing ministry in your prayers. Good News Jail & Prison Ministry is not funded by the state. We are a non-profit organization that must raise our own funds through the generous donations from our partners.
Last week I was able to get in to see a young lady who needed someone to talk to because of a loss she had experienced in her family. As I sat there, and mostly just listened, I thought to myself, “What if this was my daughter?” I was overwhelmed with God’s love for her and made a commitment to follow-up with her. I realized that she never would have come to me on the outside, so I had to go to her. Jesus has done the same for all of us. Jesus Christ is the Son God and He left his home to come here and pay the price for the sins of mankind. He wants to have a personal relationship with whosoever will believe in him. I want to encourage you today, that if you don’t know Jesus in this way, He wants to make His home in your heart.
Mandy Nevarez is one of the pastors at New Life Assembly of God. Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.